Home > Thousands March in Growing French Protests

Thousands March in Growing French Protests

by Open-Publishing - Monday 24 January 2005

Edito Demos-Actions Public services France

By Timothy Heritage

PARIS - Some 210,000 public sector workers marched through French cities on Thursday in widening protests over pay, reforms and job cuts that have sent a sharp warning to President Jacques Chirac’s conservative government.

On the third day of protests, some schools closed because of a one-day strike by teachers, and a stoppage by air traffic controllers grounded flights at Bordeaux in western France.

The protests followed a warning strike by rail workers that severely disrupted rail traffic across France on Wednesday and protests by energy and postal workers earlier this week.

Unions said 50,000 had joined a protest march that snaked noisily through Paris, though police put the number at 20,000.

"I’m protesting against the quasi-reforms the government is carrying out. They’re killing the public services. It has to stop. Soon there’ll be nothing left," said Lionel Reinisch, 35, a civil servant from the Paris suburb of Creteil.

Nationally, police said some 210,000 had taken part in protests, more than the 203,700 claimed by the CGT union.

Elisabeth David, head of the Unsa trade union that represents public sector workers, hailed the turnout: "This day is a success that has gone beyond our expectations."

The government has vowed to press on with economic reforms. But it fears a failure to address the strikers’ concerns could prompt voters to punish it by opposing the European Union constitution in a referendum expected before July.

Chirac showed his concern by urging deputies from his ruling conservative party on Wednesday to make sure the referendum does not turn into a vote on domestic policies.


The strikes, provoked by discontent on issues that vary from sector to sector, have increased pressure on Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

He has played down any parallels with street protests that are widely seen as causing the downfall of the last conservative government in 1997, and took a tough line in comments to reporters.

"The strike is an element of social dialogue. What is not acceptable is when the strike becomes a blockage," he said. "Anyone responsible for the breakdown of dialogue must expect to be treated with the necessary firmness."

France’s economy, the second biggest in the euro zone, has hit a soft patch but the government is aiming for 2.5 percent growth in 2005 and aims to cut unemployment this year from 9.9 percent to about 9.0 percent.

Many workers are demanding pay rises which the government can ill afford to meet as it tries to limit public spending and keep the budget deficit to within limits set by the EU.

Some workers oppose reforms and many reject planned changes to the law governing the 35-hour working week which the government says will make it more flexible and make French industry more competitive.

Many ordinary people simply feel their purchasing power has receded because pay rises have not kept pace with inflation.

"Many average employees who yesterday seemed to be in a stable and even enviable situation ... no longer have that," said Francois Bayrou, head of the center-right UDF party.

He said France faced a "very deep social malaise." (Reuters)


Forum posts

  • Well done !! The French people set an example to the GB and US -People power !! Can you imagine the same happening in the US ? The French since their revolution have an ethos of public justice for all -not just the rich elite, Since 1793 they no longer allow a cabal with hangers on to dictate to the masses. Bring back the guillotine for Chirac, Blair and Bush. Vive le France !!

    • In France, despite overall average wages, the public sector workers have many strong adavantages that the private sector workers don’t have and envy. and it is those private sector workers who pays the price by higher taxes and lower quality of service each year.

      A more exact reference to the french revolution, is that the french public sector worker or "fonctionnaires" is a sort of powerful nobility who want to defends its privileges, and the private sector workers who are fed up is the "tiers etat".

    • higher taxes and lower quality of service

      mmmm it’s an error ?

      lower taxes for lower quality or
      higher taxes for higher quality



    • No, no, it is not an error at all.
      you may say it is a french paradox.

      This is exactly what is happening here.

      the quality of the services of the state-owned sector (social welfare, schools, transports, retirement pensions...) is slowly but regularly lowering while we are paying higher taxes and rates each year for such a result!
      And even with this, they manage to get huge deficits!

      the state and the public sector are very badly managed, and there is huge money-wasting.

      Many frenchmen are fed up of this.

    • this is not a mistake, this is the reality in France.

      The public sector and the state are the kings of money-wasting.
      And they still manage to get huge deficits.

      so what do they do?
      they give less services and raise taxes and rates in order to compensate the deficit a bit each year.

    • my message doesn’t seem to appear. is there a problem?

      my post:
      this is not a mistake, this is the reality in France.

      The public sector and the state are the kings of money-wasting. And they still manage to get huge deficits.

      so what do they do? they give less services and raise taxes and rates in order to compensate the deficit a bit each year.

    • The only example the protestors show is that socialized government workers will rally and unite to defend their inept beauracratic largesse, while private workers, who generate wealth and the tax money get pinched.

      The US set an example with people power. Its called the 2004 presidential election.

  • I just watched the movie "May Fools" (subtitled)(hilarious comedy) about a family during the french revolution of the 60’s? and it sure seemed like a good time- shift in mass consciousness, getting back to basics, free food, free love...wish I was there!

    And could you send some of that over here to the US?

  • A veteran of WWII once told me that the problem with France is that all the people worth anything were killed while fighting in the French Resistance.

    • People will look back and say all the best Iraqis were killed in the Resistance (or insurgents as the corporate media likes to call them).

    • the slaughterers and the beheaders of the iraqi people?

      are you MAD to insult the memory of the french resistants killed in WW2 by comparing them to the islamists terrorists in Irak?

      your iraqi "Resistance"’s manners are worth those of the waffen SS.

  • Right on French workers. Let’s do the same in North America. Kick neoconazi ass!